Rangers use big sticks at end of order

Rangers use big sticks at end of order

ANAHEIM -- The bottom of the Rangers' lineup, starring hometown hero Gerald Laird, had a big day at the plate on a Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium.

The Angels' No. 3 hitter did not. Vladimir Guerrero is suddenly looking like a mere mortal when facing Rangers pitching and manager Ron Washington's three-infielder shift.

That was the difference on Sunday afternoon, as Guerrero drew an 0-for-4 while Laird had a career day with two home runs and six RBIs in leading the Rangers to a 10-4 victory over the Angels at Angel Stadium.

Ben Broussard, Laird and Ramon Vazquez -- batting at the bottom of the order -- went 6-for-13 with a triple, three home runs and nine RBIs on the afternoon.

Starter Vicente Padilla held the Angels to four runs in seven innings, and the Rangers were able to take two of three here and finish 3-3 on their season-opening West Coast trip. Their starting pitching has a 2.31 ERA after six games.

"Obviously, I'm very pleased with what we've accomplished," Washington said. "Everything is centered on the pitcher on the mound and that's been our forte. We've been pitching well. Padilla was as good as he needs to be. He got us through seven innings and did his job today."

Padilla was still fighting the effects of the flu bug that has been a problem for a number of Rangers on this road trip. But he was still able to make it through seven and is now 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA after two starts.

"My body is not too strong right now," Padilla said. "That's no excuse because my arm feels great. I wasn't tired. I didn't feel tired, so I thought I would be able to finish the seventh. We were up by four or so runs, so I thought I could handle the seventh."

He was especially good at getting Guerrero in two pivotal situations that proved to be the difference in the game.

The Rangers, after Padilla had given up a home run to Garret Anderson, took a 2-1 lead in the third inning against Angels starter Jon Garland. Laird started off his big day with a single, Vazquez tripled off the center-field wall and Ian Kinsler brought him home with a sacrifice fly.

Padilla responded to that by facing the top of the Angels order in their half of the third inning and setting them down in order. That included Guerrero, who fouled out to Laird to end the inning. The Rangers then took a 5-1 lead in the top of the fourth on a three-run home run by Laird.

Guerrero came up in another crucial situation in the fifth. This time the Rangers were leading, 7-3, after Broussard's two-run home run, but the Angels had a rally going on a pair of leadoff singles by Chone Figgins and Gary Matthews.

That brought up Guerrero, and Padilla avoided a potentially big inning by getting him to ground into a double play. A run scored, but that shut off the rally and the Angels for the rest of the afternoon. Anderson followed Guerrero's double play with a single, but Padilla and relievers Joaquin Benoit and C.J. Wilson combined to set down the last 13 Angels in a row.

Laird, who is from nearby Garden Grove, finished off the afternoon with an RBI single in the seventh and a two-run home run in the ninth. He entered the game with just one hit in his first 11 at-bats and he also had a .191 career average at Angel Stadium. This time he didn't let having approximately 40 family and friends in attendance bother him.

"It's tough," Laird said. "You want to do well in front of your hometown fans. This time I felt relaxed coming in here. I thought I had some good at-bats in Seattle but just didn't have any luck. I felt this weekend would be the series I'd break out."

Laird had the kind of day that Guerrero used to have against the Rangers. But it's been awhile, and it all seemed to change a year ago when Washington started using three infielders on the left side of second base. Guerrero hasn't handled the shift well.

"You don't stop Guerrero, you just try to contain him," Washington said. "He's still going to get his hits."

But just not as many lately. In his first 56 games against the Rangers, Guerrero hit .440 with 18 doubles, 21 home runs, 49 RBIs and an .812 slugging percentage. The Angels were 35-21 in those games. Since then, in 18 games against the Rangers, he is hitting .294 with six doubles, no home runs, nine RBIs and a .382 slugging percentage. The Angels are 9-9 in those games.

"Vlad is a man who likes to swing," said Joaquin Benoit, who struck out Guerrero in the eighth. "You just try to get him off one certain spot. You've got to move the ball in and out. Like today, I threw a changeup away and a fastball inside to get him off one spot."

It was either that or the shift. Something is working right for the Rangers against a guy who once clobbered them.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.